“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God,
to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh,
nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12–13, NKJV)
The benefits of salvation bound up in Christ are bestowed by the Spirit who enables belief in Christ. Our faith is in the faith, as summarized by the Apostles’ Creed.
Some parts of the contemporary church don’t recite creeds. But reciting the Apostles’ Creed brings us to join our voices with God’s people over the centuries in proclaiming the gospel of salvation.
The Creed serves a variety of purposes. By it we confess the faith. It provides a syllabus to catechize in the faith. It provides dialog for the liturgy of worship in celebration of God’s majesty and mercy. The Creed is also missional, holding aloft the banner of the kingdom of God, beckoning to belief and life in Jesus Christ.
In this last of our series on the Apostles’ Creed we close with a story found in the final pages of The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. It emphasizes the importance of creeds in the life of the church. I can’t remember where I heard it, but its impact stuck with me.
A young pastor was asked to visit a dying man in a Washington, D.C., hospital. The man was dying of aggressive bone cancer. Of his own admission, he was not a Christian. The pastor shared the gospel with him; the man wasn’t particularly interested. But the pastor continued to visit, and a friendship formed. He got to know the dying man. The man had grown up in Spain. His mother had taught him the Christian faith, but he had rejected it when his father was killed.
The man came to America. He worked hard. He went to college and on to medical school. He became a highly respected physician. Then came the cancer. His body that he kept in shape started to deteriorate. His skills diminished to such a degree he had to stop his medical practice. All the accomplishments and many accolades of his lifetime became empty. He became empty. He said to the young pastor, “What can your God possibly do for me?”
The pastor explained the gospel again. He pointed him to what Jesus did and the forgiveness and hope found in Jesus. The man didn’t interact. The visit ended.
A few days later, the man’s leg broke spontaneously from the cancer. The doctors had to operate. The night before the operation, the man wrote a note. It was for the pastor, and it was partly in Spanish. The part in Spanish was the words to the Apostles’ Creed because that’s how the man had memorized it as a kid. His note continued in English: “Jesus, I hate all my sins. I have not served or worshiped you. Father, I know the only way to come into your kingdom is by the precious blood of Jesus. I know you stand at the door and you will answer those who knock. I want to be your lamb.”
By God’s grace he embraced the faith of the Apostles’ Creed as his own. That man didn’t survive the operation, but he did survive his death.
The Colossian church was beset with false teaching. False teachers had introduced another gospel, substituting religious observance for rest in Christ. In contrast, Paul lays out a detailed and magisterial view of Christ in the pragmatics of reconciling sinners to a holy God and in the panorama of redemptive history. The gravitational pull of the entire letter is to Christ – Christ as God’s way, Christ as the only way, Christ as the sure way.
The Apostles’ Creed showcases this Christ. He is the Christ of God. The Spirit is the Spirit of the risen Christ. And the same Scriptures that speak of Christ (John 5:39-40) invite all who hear to Him:
“Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (Rom. 10:11–13).
- How does the writer of Hebrews understand faith? (compare Heb. 11:1 with Heb. 1:1-3 and 12:1-2)
- In what way is Christ substance and not shadow?
God the Father almighty, pour out Your Spirit that we might believe You and believe in the One You have sent. Found our faith on Your Word and feed our faith that we might grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, one with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.
Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.